Sunday, February 08, 2009

Deception in everyday life

Two examples:

1. The practice of holding one's glass of whiskey covered with a napkin in the "banquet parties" of North India.

Everybody knows that a covered glass contains whiskey. So why the cover-up? Is it to hide the quantity of liquor in the glass? The color (and hence the strength) of the drink?

2. The practice of blacking/tearing out the price-tag of a gift item.

Giving a gift is mostly a game-theoretic move to either oblige, or to reciprocate for a previous gift, or to create an obligation for the other person. Since in these moves, nurturing emotions are secondary and manipulative emotions (and cunning) are primary, the subterfuge of not disclosing the monetary value of a gift is a desperate attempt to gain more mileage from the gifting than the gift justifiably provides.

It is not that this phenomenon happens only between neighbors or distant relatives. I have seen this phenomenon happen between the closest family members. Monetary value of a gift is a strong indicator of one's value for the gifting party and it is a stark sight to see that resentment and manipulation is existent in all human relationships.

If, as is ideally believed, the gifted party values the gesture and not the gift, then why black out the price-tag? Is it that since the temptation to ascertain the monetary value of a gift is assumed to exist (in an admittedly cynical view of humanity), this practice is to preempt the monetary circuits from kicking in?

In traditional Indian ceremonies, gifts of easily-ascertainable value (gold, hard cash, silk) are more acceptable than a new-ageist gift of incense or a painting, which are more common in "evolved" circles where gifting cash is considered crude. If it is considered rude and crass for one to value a gift according to its price, why is it considered polite for the other to assume this proclivity for crassness in oneself and for him to preempt it, eh?

Most gifts are transactions. The stress of buying gifts in the holiday season (Thanksgiving, Christmas) in Western societies is quite well-documented for me to go over it. The "well-adjusted" consider these transactions normal human discourse and participate in it without much thought. Those who can ill-afford so many gifts (but can also ill-afford any resultant resentments if they do not gift) consider it a woeful blight.

And those who have too much time on their hands, and a blogger account, split hairs.

2 comments:

srid said...

Giving a gift is mostly a game-theoretic move to either oblige, or to reciprocate for a previous gift, or to create an obligation for the other person

I do not know anything about game theory other than a simple guess that it has got something to do with games, but how come human behaviors?

Harmanjit Singh said...

Game theory is a branch of applied mathematics:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Game_theory